Given the addition of six freshmen and three transfers, Maryland softball knew it was going to play a lot of newcomers and young players this season.
Senior outfielder Destiney Henderson has yet to play this year, and senior infielder Jacqui Pascual missed last weekend in Louisville, meaning the Terps have relied on their young players even more than anticipated. Each of their six freshmen has made at least three starts.
While those inexperienced players have shown promise, they've been plagued by defensive mistakes. Maryland's 28 errors have led to 21 unearned runs, each of which is the worst in the Big Ten. Sophomore catcher Anna Kufta, in her first season as the starter, has thrown out two of 28 runners attempting to steal against her.
"What we talk about all the time is taking those experiences, learning from them, and the next time you're faced with it, you execute it the proper way," coach Julie Wright said.
Other experience-related issues include throwing strikes — Maryland's staff has already walked 70 batters — and hitting with runners in scoring position. The Terps are 0-10 when tied or trailing after six innings, due in part to rally-killing late-game at-bats.
Still, individual young players have come up big at times for the Terps. Infielder Brigette Nordberg, in her first season as a full-time starter, has paced the Terps offense with a .316 average. Infielder Hannah Eslick hit her first career home run on Feb. 23 against Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill, the defending USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
The young Terps have showed the ability to score, as they did against Iowa State on Feb. 23, when they put up nine runs. They have showed the ability to pitch, as Ryan Denhart did in her complete-game shutout against IUPUI on Friday. But they have yet to put those together consistently.
Maryland has shown flashes of being a more complete team. In their 5-1 win against IUPUI on Saturday in Louisville, the Terps outhit the Jaguars, 10-5, made only one error and left seven runners on base to IUPUI's eight.
Maryland's 3-2 record last weekend was a sign of growth. But to take the next step of beating a higher-quality opponent — or even a ranked one — Wright knows there's much more work that needs to be done.
"It was fun to watch them — they had that great youthful energy in the three wins," Wright said. "I'm hoping that they take that with them into our home tournament."